Fairer funding for schools

I along with MPs with similarly placed constituencies urged the Coalition government to narrow the large gap between the money going to schools in some parts of the country and the much smaller sums going to schools in places like West Berkshire and Wokingham. Conservatives were not able to get agreement in coalition, but did put a commitment to fairer funding in the Conservative 2015 Manifesto.

Ministers have since been working on a scheme. This is currently out to consultation. The request for people to write in on the “National Funding Formula” was first issued on 14 December. The closing date is 22 March. I am writing to remind those interested as they might like to send in their thoughts.

I have put the case to Ministers along with other MPs on several occasions. I will be having another meeting with the Secretary of State shortly about it again. The case is very simple. The main cost of education for each pupil is similar around the country, as it is based on teacher pay and other staff wages paid at  national rates. Of course there should  be extra money for pupils that require more support, and to recognise problems in deprived areas. There also needs to be some recognition of higher property and support costs in expensive parts of the country. The current gap between the highest and lowest funding, at more than 100% of the lowest level,  is too great.

I have asked for the  introduction of a new system as soon as possible, and for further transitional increases in money whilst we are awaiting a fair funding answer. The total support per pupil needs to be sufficient for decent provision. Individual schools may have other budget problems. If a school is unable to recruit sufficient pupils then its total funding will drop, and that may force it to reduce the number of subject options as it adjusts its teaching numbers to the lesser number of pupils.

In 2014-15 the per pupil funding of English schools ranged from £8595 per head in the City of London to just £3950 in the lowest funded authority. The average was  £4550. Wokingham received £4125 and West Berkshire £4367.


The contact is SchoolsNationalFundingFormula.CONSULTATION@education.gov.uk

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  1. David Cockburn
    Posted March 10, 2017 at 7:11 am | Permalink

    The whole idea of nationally negotiated wage scales for teachers should be re-examined. A teacher on £25K in Yorkshire is in a very different position to one on the same wage in Wokingham. With this issue addressed the funding formula also becomes easier to manage.

    • Spratt
      Posted March 10, 2017 at 7:47 am | Permalink

      I agree. The nationally negotiated pay scale should be abandoned across the public sector as a whole.

    • Narrow Shoulders
      Posted March 10, 2017 at 7:58 am | Permalink

      National wage settlements in the public sector is an area that could deliver huge savings if looked at through the eyes of a Class 4 NIC payer rather than union bosses and civil servants.

      • hefner
        Posted March 10, 2017 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

        DC, Spr, NS,
        I could almost agree with you, but are you going to ask for more public servants to help calculate a fair way of introducing these regionally negotiated wage scales. How are you going to justify that area A is given lower salary scales than area B? Based on what neutral indisputable criteria? Do you really expect people in area A to take whatever decision to decrease their salaries with a smile? or if salaries are kept the same in area A to accept a higher differentiated scale in area B?
        Look at what happens in the private sector when the same company with two branches have different salarial policies for each of those.
        Your whole idea sounds good but I do not see politicians to hurry much to implement it.

        • rose
          Posted March 11, 2017 at 12:16 am | Permalink

          And how would you sell a geographical differential in pensions?

        • Narrow Shoulders
          Posted March 11, 2017 at 9:16 am | Permalink


          You are correct that years of ingrained entitlement would be hard to reverse. However we can work out the rate at which galaxies are moving away from us so figuring a regional coefficient that takes into account local housing and other living costs to offer a reasonable standard of living should not be beyond us.

    • A different Simon
      Posted March 10, 2017 at 8:19 am | Permalink

      I’ve got mates who are teachers and who have other halves who are and they all tell me the same thing .

      Schools try to cut teaching costs by recruiting inexperienced and even improperly qualified candidates instead of proven good experienced teachers .

      Ex-education secretary Nicky Morgan resigned rather than send her offspring to a state school . If she had lived in London there would have been a special state school which selected on parents ability to afford to live in the area and she would not have had to .

      So many schools are so bad at managing their budgets that a lot of money will have to be thrown at the problem for enough of it to stick .

      The establishment decides the levels of funding and it isn’t going to prioritise the education of plebs , especially after they have defied them over Brexit .

  2. Jerry
    Posted March 10, 2017 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    You might wish to fix the typo in the title!…

  3. MrVeryAngry
    Posted March 10, 2017 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    De-nationalise the whole structure and issue education vouchers.

    • Jerry
      Posted March 10, 2017 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

      @MrVeryAngry; Surely the issuing of education vouchers by the state would still mean the UK education structure was largely nationalised, there would still be the National Curriculum whilst the majority of the now independent/private schools would simply tailor what they provide to the value of the vouchers, the vast majority of parents still being totally dependant on what their voucher bought and the catchment area they live in – unable to ‘top-up’ the fees to either buy a better local education for their child, daily transportation cost of sending the child outside of the catchment area, never mind afford the cost of a boarding school.

      But yes, there needs to be a total rethink of how education works. Whilst I applaud the new “T level”, even if it is reinventing the wheel, it is a start but it needs to a fully integrated pathway from age 11 not just 16-18. The last 45 or so years has not been good, even worse the last 20 have been nothing but an exercise in statistical form filling – never mind the usefulness of the qualifications achieved, just marvel at the numbers of achieved.

      Might as well be talking Tractor production figures…

  4. Roy Grainger
    Posted March 10, 2017 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    Not sure why teachers should be paid at national rates.

    • Martyn G
      Posted March 10, 2017 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

      It all hinges around the ‘Teachers’ Pay and Conditions’ book issued annually. Changes to the salary ranges and conditions are always, I believe, subject to the agreement of the teachers Unions before publication.
      In general, schools must comply with the book, though they do have a little latitude within the rules to increase a salary if it can be shown necessary e.g. to encourage a high-flyer to stay with the school. Although this might include consideration of local housing and costs of living, that factor cannot be mentioned when making the award. Other than that, the Teacher’s Pay and Conditions book reigns supreme.

  5. Ian Wragg
    Posted March 10, 2017 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    We are spending £40 billion on education.
    Weekly we import 2000 school age children who go to the school of their choice unlike local kids.
    This is patently unsustainable yet the hand wringers want us to take even more unaccompanied minors.

    • hefner
      Posted March 10, 2017 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

      Between 1986 and 1996 my three children were not able to go to the primary state school of our choice in the Reading area. A lot of parents were in the same situation as some schools were already oversubscribed. So the problem is not new, even if it has obviously worsened.
      The “school problem” has been with us for quite a long time. I am not sure why and nowadays I do not get up in arms about it. In contrast, my grand’children were/are able to go to the first choice state school of their parents.
      So for me the situation might not be as bad as “advertised”.

  6. alan jutson
    Posted March 10, 2017 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    I find it amazing that there is almost double the difference in pupil funding from one area to another.
    Does this huge Grant difference happen in any other Departments like Health, hospitals, GP Surgeries, Local Authorities etc.

    If the Chancellor is looking for somewhere else to find funds to reverse the Self employment NI fiasco, can I suggest the foreign aid budget, as it is absolutely stupid that this fund remains ring fenced, whilst other more pressing needs at home are subject to cuts or are limited in some other way.

    • fedupsoutherner
      Posted March 10, 2017 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

      OMG Alan, I couldn’t agree more. Why should our elderly and our young suffer with insufficient funding so that foreigners gain from our money? A lot of the money is squandered on ridiculous things anyway and as an example Pakistan is reported to have bought 4 nuclear subs recently. Well, isn’t that more than we can afford? It is up to the governments of each country to spend money wisely and treat their own citizens fairly first and foremost. That is something we are not doing at the moment and favouring others first.

  7. Dave Andrews
    Posted March 10, 2017 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    Can the funding of education be removed from local council responsibility? Education is a national concern, not specifically the council tax and business rate payer.

    • acorn
      Posted March 10, 2017 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

      Local councils don’t pay for education. It is funded nationally by the DoE, via the Education Funding Agency (EFA). It’s called the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG).

      The UK spends £84 billion on “Education” (COFOG 9 definition), including £31 billion on primary and £38 billion on secondary. Under Osborne, all state schools would have been compulsorily converted to “Academy Trust” status by 2022, ready for privatisation and education vouchers and probably co-payment.

      That plan got kicked into the long grass. IMO it was actually a good plan and would have disconnected schools from the interfering Westminster Punch & Judy club and its obsession with Whitehall “penny packet” financing formulas.

      Some years back, I heard the schools’ funding formula explained at a one day seminar, the whole audience was suicidal by teatime.

      • acorn
        Posted March 10, 2017 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

        BTW. If we assume the above £69 billion, for primary and secondary (0 – 16 years), is averaged across circa 12.2 million kids, we are looking at £5656 per pupil per year.

        A government that truly understood its command of the economy, would say to its embedded “private sector”, I want an education system that can equip our citizens, to manufacture goods and services for export, that can, at least, balance our desires for other countries exports. And; this is how much the government is prepared to pay for it.

        Should the “private sector” not wish to comply with the government’s request, then the government will tax what you are doing to a standstill, until you do, what your government requires you to do, that is, “… make Britain a country that works for everyone”.

  8. Narrow Shoulders
    Posted March 10, 2017 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    The disparity in per pupil funding across the country has been a disgrace. Why should Tower Hamlets get twice that of Great Yarmouth.

    Right on inner city teachers have been coining it in for too long claiming that the London Challenge improved outcomes while ignoring the huge amounts of money thrown at it.

    Where schools are not full no new (free) schools should be opened. There are too few school places so there is no reason for any school to have spare capacity. That is not efficient.

    Parents, as governors and pressure groups, can drive improvements in local schools they would not otherwise wish to send their children too.

    • Narrow Shoulders
      Posted March 10, 2017 at 8:09 am | Permalink

      Frozen per pupil funding for four years has not been helped by the number of non-English speaking pupils who gave funds diverted to their integration and education and the lack of sanction permitted against unruly pupils.

  9. agricola
    Posted March 10, 2017 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    Well we all now know that manifestos are merely political hype and have as much worth as toilet paper,used one side only. Tell the punters what they wish to hear. More money grabbing is beginning to emerge from this latest budget. Watch this space.

    Set out a template for what education in a particular level of school is expected to provide. Relate it to geographical location as this affects costs of building and playing fields. Measure each school against the template and you will understand where the deficiencies exist.

    Looking at your funding figures, which I do not dispute, you begin to understand the abyss that exists between state and private education. You can then begin to understand the enormous gap in outcomes at A levels and university entrance. The aim should be to lift state education to the level of private education, not the left wing political opposite.

    • fedupsoutherner
      Posted March 10, 2017 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

      Agree totally Agricola

      My son was fortunate enough to go to one of the best private schools in the country because his father funded it even though it nearly bankrupt him. I have to say though that he has turned out to be one of the most responsible, caring, hard working, polite individuals for his age I have ever met. That is not said because he is my son but other people have said it too. He has been taught not only a good education but also how to get on with people of all backgrounds and how to be caring and responsible for his own actions. It will be a sad day if people are not allowed to spend their money on their children’s education if they want to. You don’t always have to be wealthy to send your child to a private school. You sometimes just have to want to for their sake. I have known women take on a job just tofund their child to go to a private school.

  10. margaret
    Posted March 10, 2017 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    As in the NHS numbers of staff are not always representative of the reality . As numbers of staff are counted , it must be remembered that many teaching assistants do an awful lot of teaching and groundwork. On the other hand there are teaching assistants who are responsible for far too much , cannot speak the language properly and because they do not cost as much are a desirable asset to a school . They keep quite about their difficult load because it is a job and pays. The children in these situations suffer.

    Whilst the cost of education is being regarded , quality which is in terms of actual mentorship and child safety should be scrutinised more carefully and not purely on exam results which many parents themselves push their children to pass.

  11. Lifelogic
    Posted March 10, 2017 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    Interesting to see Richard Dawkins on Newsnight. I tend to agree with most of his agenda and judgement in general certainly in his main areas. But he clearly want to kill UK democracy bury it in the antidemocratic EU. He seems to think we should have had to have a two thirds majority in order to leave the EU. But we were taken in and (the governments passed many further damaging treaties) without being given any vote at all!

    He thinks Joe public are ignorant too. They may well be in many ways but they were right on this issue Richard. They just want their democracy back.

    Get out of the EU first and then I might be happy with a two thirds majority vote to take us back in.

    There is a lot of foolish, misguided group think in academia – especially at Oxford and lots of drivel on climate alarmism too, contrary to the real science which shows no catastrophe looming.

    • Roy Grainger
      Posted March 10, 2017 at 11:46 am | Permalink

      Does he think we should also have a 2/3 majority in every constituency to remove the sitting MP ? If not why not ?

    • Lifelogic
      Posted March 10, 2017 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

      Of course the real solution to schooling is to get rid of the virtual state monopoly (that exists due to taxation and then “free” school places). Allow private schools to compete on a fair basis, give everyone an education voucher (worth circa the £10K the government spends on schooling per child pa) and allow them to use it and top it up as they wish. At the excellent wide choice of establishments that would then become available.

      As it is the state schools will not improve or innovate and they will remain second rate in general.

      The NHS is an even worse example as it actually kills thousands each year, Hammond has just given them yet more money, as another sticking plaster. Reform is what is needed not money. Tax relief for private health care, no 12% IPT, voucher for treatments ….

      • hefner
        Posted March 10, 2017 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

        Yeah right, reform, with an extra layer of managers, of bean counters from the private sector maybe. That should certainly improve things. Poor guy, you should stop talking about things you do not know the first thing about.
        In case you do not know ( and it seems obvious you do not know that much given the fluff you serve us almost every day) there are some state schools which are very good, obviously oversubscribed because parents get to know them and would want their children in such schools. And if you think that all private schools are always brilliant you might want to check the reports from inspectors on some of them.
        The teaching profession is not attractive at present, and the teacher training should certainly be widened and improved.
        But you need to be rather limited to think that education vouchers would solve everything.
        PS: I am not a teacher, never was.

        • Lifelogic
          Posted March 13, 2017 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

          If the state schools are very good they will be able to compete for the vouchers and do very well. I am not suggesting the state schools are abolished just that they compete on a level playing field.

  12. James Matthews
    Posted March 10, 2017 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    Just in case everyone thinks that someone else will point it out, surely a typo in the heading?

    What happened to the post detailing your contribution to the budget debate?

  13. agricola
    Posted March 10, 2017 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    The first identifiable Stealth Tax to emerge unheralded from the budget is a hike in probate fees from £215 ,or £155 via a solicitor, to levels ranging from £300 to £20,000 as of May 2017. The lesson would seem to be, get your wealth into an offshore trust. Its omission from the chancellors speech is on a par with the National Insurance lie in the 2015 manifesto.

    While these two vote catching schemes develop the UK continues to pay £12 Billion PA and rising to the leaders of some of the most democratic and socially conscious countries in Africa and Asia. At the same time the UK allows it’s education and care for the elderly to be at best third class.

    • alan jutson
      Posted March 10, 2017 at 11:51 am | Permalink


      Ref Probate fee’s

      Remember estates will be charged twice, once on first death if they are a couple, and charged again on second death, when hopefully what is left can be passed onto the rest of the family.

      Thus the government gets two bites at probate charges on the estate value of a couple, as well as Inheritance tax on the second death.

      Remember charges have to be paid up front, so in some cases money will have to be borrowed to pay the fees and taxes due by those who stand to inherit.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted March 10, 2017 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

      Not only are they still ratting on the £1 million each IHT thresholds promised by Osborne 8 years back, but they are introducing a new inheritance probate tax on top of the 40%.

      • hefner
        Posted March 10, 2017 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

        Instead of going on rattling on IHT and blah blah blah, you should study the possibilities that trust offer. That would certainly be more useful.

        • Lifelogic
          Posted March 11, 2017 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

          Trust are not much use as there is also a lifetime transfer tax to put and significant money into them at 20% plus ongoing taxes. Trading companies and the likes better usually.

          I am well out of it anyway unless I return to the UK and I have not intention of doing so.

    • A different Simon
      Posted March 10, 2017 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for drawing readers attention to that new stealth tax .

      I am unlikely to reach anything like state pension age , get no financial assistance now I’m too unwell to work (having disqualified myself from benefits due to having saved) and as a single person without children find I am penalised when it comes to passing on what I have to beneficiaries .

      Why can’t I pass it on to nephews and nieces tax efficiently like people can to spouses and children ?

      Now they aren’t satisfied with 40% inheritance tax and want to levy a probate tax too .

      Why can’t HM Govt keep their thieving hands off citizens property ?

      • Lifelogic
        Posted March 11, 2017 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

        You can invest in trading companies that can be IHT exempt after just two years or gift the money and then survive for 7 years. Or make regular gifts from income. Difficult for anyone if all their money is tied up in their home.

  14. Bert Young
    Posted March 10, 2017 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    The system of allocating resources to education all over the country does need overhauling ; there are vast discrepancies in all sorts of costs depending on location and it does need sorting out . The same applies to the NHS .

    The shortage of good teachers is very apparent and is another matter of real concern now and for the future . At one time someone who was a teacher was a respected individual in any community , today this does not seem to be true .

    • hefner
      Posted March 10, 2017 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

      BY, I completely agree with your last paragraph. A lot of parents nowadays consider the education of their children to be solely the responsibility of teachers, and will be quick to criticise teachers at the school gates in front of children. No surprise that when they become adults they become whingers complaining about IHT thresholds and their other bees in bonnets.

  15. Javelin
    Posted March 10, 2017 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    The last Tory chancellor to attempt a direct tax rise, Norman Lamont, was forced out of office within weeks.

  16. Mick
    Posted March 10, 2017 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    Off topic, after watching Brexit: Britains biggest deal last night run by that kuenssberg woman for the bias eu loving BBC, it was at least 80% remoaners interviewed and bias to the EU came across as so anti British, the sooner we are gone the better and that the sooner I’m not paying a licence fee to the bias leftist BBC cannot come quick enough

    • Oggy
      Posted March 10, 2017 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

      I purposely didn’t watch it as i knew it be would be leftist drivel.
      But as it’s the EU’s (Treaty of Rome) 60th birthday on the 25th March, wouldn’t it be a perfect day for triggering A50 !

      • Mick
        Posted March 10, 2017 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

        No a perfect day would have been 24th june 2016, but I’ll settle for the middle of next week??

    • Dave Andrews
      Posted March 10, 2017 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

      Watched it on iplayer. Pro-leave people were challenged on their views, pro-EU weren’t. Shameful one-sided reporting. Was our host invited to contribute? Thought not.

  17. Lifelogic
    Posted March 10, 2017 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    Perhaps Hammond has to go, so May can do this U-turn more elegantly. It certainly would be good to have a sound, government is the problem, Chancellor for a change. Britain will pay more tax than at anytime since 86/87 at 37% of GDP under Hammond. Yet still a huge PSBR and generally rather dire public services as well.

    This is a problem that Hammond needs to address the dreadful value for money and endless waste in the state sector. Start with the dire rationed NHS and education virtual monopolies.

  18. alan jutson
    Posted March 10, 2017 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    Have just received a letter for a long awaited hospital appointment.

    The letter explains that should I need an interpreter to please let them know at least 48 hours in advance, and they will arrange such, it then goes on to explain that no one should rely upon family and friends to act as an interpreter for them.

    Two questions:
    Why should the NHS fund an interpreter and not the patient.
    Why do they discourage family and friends from doing so.

    Is this the fear/claim culture of perhaps miss understanding symptoms/treatment being offered.

    How much does the NHS spend on interpreters I wonder ?

    I wonder if any other health service in the World offers interpreters free of charge.

    • alan jutson
      Posted March 10, 2017 at 11:54 am | Permalink

      Does tuition of English for foreign students come out of the Schools budget John?

      If it does, then perhaps it should really come out of Foreign Aid. !

    • Lifelogic
      Posted March 10, 2017 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

      Indeed but no doubt some translators are making a good living from it.

    • Jagman84
      Posted March 10, 2017 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

      Maybe they think you will need one to converse with the hospital staff, seeing as the NHS is, allegedly, unable to function without the world and his wife working for it?

    • hefner
      Posted March 10, 2017 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

      In France, the language knowledge of the hospital staff is made part of an individual’s file. If necessary, a staff with a particular language knowledge can be called to help a colleague deal with a patient. That usually is a free service. But the pool of languages is obviously limited to “next door” countries or languages spoken by a sizeable part of the local community. It might be more difficult to find a staff fluent in, say, Quechua.
      (More or less broken) English should not be a problem in hospitals in most parts of France.

    • fedupsoutherner
      Posted March 10, 2017 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

      Alan I know from my own personal experience that Spain does not offer interpreters. I had to provide my own until I could speak a little more Spanish than I could at first. I had to pay for it also. Nothing was given to me in English even though a great many people living in the area were English. We are stupid and the money this service costs could be spent on our own people. No wonder immigrants are desperate to get here.

      • Narrow Shoulders
        Posted March 10, 2017 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

        Rural Thailand was my experience. As a guest in their country I had learned to speak, read and write their language so was able to manage with a little help from a Thai-English dictionary.

        It did not cross my mind or theirs that a translator should be provided

  19. Antisthenes
    Posted March 10, 2017 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    Education has been one area that it has been possible to compare private and public sector provision and the results have been predictable. Private provision easily outstripped public in giving quality. There were factors that skewed that measurement but there was a lesson all the same to be learnt. Completely lost on the left of course but eventually taken up by the Conservatives. So a policy of loosening the grip of the state and giving more responsibility for education in to the hands of teachers and parents has been implemented. The results have been impressive. It could have have been more so but the left and misguided public opinion restrained the Conservatives from implemented full privatisation.

    A lesson can be learnt from this radical departure from relying on public sector provision. In that as it works so well for education then it will undoubtedly work for other services provided by the public sector. Notably the NHS a behemoth that is so disadvantaged by being in the clutches of politicians and bureaucrats that it does not offer the quality and efficiency of service is could if not so encumbered. Proving that socialist ideologies are not suitable to the designing of the means of providing consumer/public needs be they social or material.

  20. Lifelogic
    Posted March 10, 2017 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    “Breaking a manifesto promise, how stupid can you get” is what the lip reader (on the Daily Politics) claims that Cameron said. Well Cast Iron, Inheritance Tax ratter, I am a Eurosceptic, low tax Conservative at heart should know.

    Of course continuing to deny they have broken the promise, when everyone can read it is even more stupid and that what the foolish May is doing.

    May &Hammond are effectively saying we know we are clearly lying. but we hold you the voting public in such contempt that we do not care.

  21. Lifelogic
    Posted March 10, 2017 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    Hammond is right to ignore silly pledges on tax, say “experts” at the IFS. Will someone save us from “experts” like these?

    The NI proposal is barking mad even without the “breaking the manifesto promise” issue. The self employed are hugely efficient and vital for the economy we need more of them not fewer. The dividend tax changes are bonkers too, as even Osborne seems to think.

    Government and over taxation everywhere is the problem with the economy not the solution.

  22. Holed amidbaths
    Posted March 10, 2017 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    Juncker says he regrets we’re leaving the EU as he would like to be in the same boat as us. We can understand that. Luxembourg, his native land, does not have too many sea-going ships. He’ll just have to make do with his usual in the bath.

  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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